Scotland is already experiencing the effects of climate change and climate projections indicate that trends observed over the last century will not only continue, but are likely to intensify. Adapting to climate change will be necessary regardless of our commitment to net-zero emissions here in Scotland, as historic global emissions have already changed our climate and will continue to do so in the decades to come.
In order to prepare Scotland for the changing global climate, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 places a duty on Ministers to lay a programme for climate change adaptation before the Scottish Parliament in response to each 5-yearly UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (UKCCRA). The Act also requires the laying of an annual report on progress towards the current adaptation programme.
This is the first annual progress report on the second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP2), which was published in September 2019 and covers actions for the period to 2024. SCCAP2 addresses the priority risks for Scotland set out in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 and its underpinning Evidence Report Summary for Scotland. A brief summary of key findings from the risk assessment is set out in the Annex.
This report has fallen at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the Scottish Government's immediate actions are focused on supporting Scotland's people and businesses in dealing with the crisis. The Government remains committed to its climate change ambitions, both on adaptation and mitigation, but the current pandemic has necessarily impacted the context of this work. In particular, the assessments made here largely cover progress to SCCAP2 policies over the period from September 2019 to March 2020, rather than the additional emergency measures currently in place to respond to COVID-19. Nonetheless, the report is being provided to deliver the statutory obligations in a timely manner. A summary of next steps and future directions on adaptation, as an integral part of a green recovery from COVID-19, is provided at the end of this section.
Outcomes-based structure to the report
SCCAP2 uses an outcomes-based approach, derived from both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Scotland's National Performance Framework. This ensures that actions over the next five years to increase the capacity of Scotland's people, communities, businesses and public sector to adapt to climate change will also complement our international ambitions and integrate action on adaptation into wider Scottish Government policy development and service delivery.
There are seven high-level outcomes within SCCAP2, covering Scotland's communities, businesses and natural environment as well as our engagement with international partners. This annual progress report is also split into the same seven chapters. Each chapter provides examples of progress - since September 2019 - in implementing the policies and proposals that contribute towards that outcome. In some chapters, the examples are further grouped according to the sub-outcomes used within that chapter of SCCAP2. The final chapter of this report summarises progress on the programme of research commitments in SCCAP2.
This report also builds on progress under the first Scottish Adaptation Programme, as set out in previous annual reports over the years 2015 to 2019. Copies of those reports can be found on the Scottish Government website.
The role of the Adaptation Scotland programme
The Adaptation Scotland programme is funded by the Scottish Government to support capacity building and action on adaptation by the public sector, businesses and communities in Scotland. This includes developing Scotland's pioneering place-based approach to climate change adaptation. The contribution of these activities to delivering the high-level outcomes in SCCAP2 is summarised in each chapter of the report.
Scottish Ministers' assessment of progress towards implementing the objectives, proposals and policies set out in SCCAP2
The progress on policy and research delivery set out across the chapters of this report constitute good early progress towards implementing SCCAP2. However, it is necessarily early days for any such assessment to be made, given the immediate and transformational context of the COVID-19 crisis and the fact that it has, in any case, been less than nine months since SCCAP2 itself was published. Subsequent annual reports will provide opportunities for fuller assessments of progress and also for further developments in the format of reporting.
Next steps: a green recovery from COVID-19
While the Scottish Government's immediate priority is on responding to COVID-19, we are still firmly committed to our climate change ambitions including leading global climate action through the delivery of a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery. Action on climate change adaptation, in the context of wider societal and economic resilience, will form an important element of this. The independent expert advice published by the Committee on Climate Change on 6 May, which the Scottish Government has welcomed, identifies enhanced adaptation to climate change as one of the six key principle for guiding a wider resilient recovery from COVID-19.
In this context, the roll-out and further development of SCCAP2 will continue, but with individual policies revisited, as needed, to align these with the wider recovery. It is also recognised that new, accelerated and reactive policies may also now become appropriate, given the extent to which COVID-19 is changing the wider landscape. As one example, on 28 April 2020 the Scottish Government announced £10 million for temporary active travel infrastructure including pop-up cycle lanes and widening walkways. There will also, in time, be opportunities for further learning regarding the interactions between public health and critical infrastructure risks that are both climate and non-climate related. The current situation emphasises the importance of systems that can be resilient to both immediate and longer-term challenges including adapting to climate change.
The Scottish Government has welcomed the common sense decision to postpone COP26 until 2021. When the time is right, we look forward to welcoming delegates to a successful event in Glasgow and expect adaptation and resilience, as part of a green global recovery, to form an important element of those discussions.
One further element of SCCAP2 that we expect to particularly develop over the coming year is a monitoring and evaluation framework that will allow for clearer assessment of progress towards its high-level outcomes. Some initial proposals for such a framework were included in SCCAP2 itself and we expect to be able to provide an update on work to develop these as part of the next annual progress report in May 2021. Furthermore, as was the case with the first programme, the Adaptation Committee of the Committee on Climate Change will undertake independent expert assessments of SCCAP2 during its lifetime. The 2009 Act requires that the request for the first such assessment be issued by September 2021.